In mid-July, developer David Mirvish revealed plans to sell the 1.8-hectare plot of land known as Mirvish Village. Bordering the corner of Bloor and Bathurst and extending west to Markham Street, Mirvish Village is home to dozens of small businesses and the iconic Honest Ed’s. Although several real estate companies have been invited to make an offer, an official sale of the property is likely years away — with Mirvish himself promising a transition period of three years.
When asked to comment on the sale, many students expressed annoyance that Mirvish Village was on the market. Known for its unique vendors and discount prices, the area has been a haven for many students on the lookout for a good deal; the redevelopment of Honest Ed’s could very well put an end to these student-friendly shopping opportunities.
“Where else am I supposed to go that’s this close to campus?” asked Sara Lee, a fourth-year St. George campus student. Sara has been shopping at Honest Ed’s since her first year of university. “It’ll be weird, looking for a new place to shop. Call it brand loyalty,” she said.
“It’s nice, knowing that I’m supporting a local community,” said Angelica Wu, a Ryerson University student who frequents the many local shops in the Village. “It would break my heart if I found out they’re replacing Ed’s with a Walmart or a Target or something.”
“The area is already pretty student-friendly,” said Allan Lyt, a Life Sciences student at U of T. “It’s almost guaranteed that these new developers will have another target audience in mind when they redevelop, which kind of sucks for us.”
Other students were more concerned about what the sale could mean to the city and its culture. Many of the buildings, including Honest Ed’s, are decades old and are widely considered to be cultural landmarks. A petition was even launched to nominate Mirvish Village as a Heritage Conservation District in an attempt to preserve its unique, Victorian-style architecture.
“I just hope they keep the buildings,” said Jason Stone, an English student at York University. “Nobody wants Toronto to just be a city of condos and skyscrapers, you know? Mirvish Village adds a certain charm to that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Alexandra Duke, a Life Sciences student at U of T, is thinks that savy developers will respect the community’s wish to preserve Mirvish Village. “A large part of the Village’s value lies in its history, its architecture. If developers start tearing it down, they’ll only end up hurting themselves.”
Some students are optimistic about the sale; to them, the prospect of new shopping and residential opportunities is cause for excitement. They share David Mirvish’s sentiment that this sale could be a great opportunity to “re-imagine” the area for the better.
“The shops here definitely aren’t for everyone,” said Elliot Ng, a Computer Science student at U of T. “It would be nice to see the area modernized a little bit. You don’t have to give Mirvish Village a complete makeover — but you have to admit, some shops are in need of a lift.”
“I think it’s great that they’re selling Honest Ed’s,” said Rebecca Lo, another U of T Computer Science student. “I know some people who like the area, but I think the area is pretty sketchy. It would be nice to add another big shopping district this close to campus.”
“This sale is going to affect more than just Mirvish Village,” said Peter Wu, a Sociology student at U of T. “A few surrounding communities will also be affected, depending on who moves in after they redevelop. Whatever happens, it will definitely be interesting.”
A few students are banking on David Mirvish’s three-year transition period to make the most of the area before it gets redeveloped.
“I’m glad I get to enjoy the area while I’m still here,” said Cheryl Guy, a foreign exchange student from the United States. “I’m also glad Mirvish gave the community a two weeks’ notice of sorts about the sale. It gives me time to show it off to my family before I leave.”
“I don’t understand why students aren’t more excited about the change,” said Edward Wilson, a Life Sciences student at U of T. Wilson thinks this generation of students could greatly benefit from the sale. “You still have a few years to take advantage of the cheap prices. Then, when you’re a young professional, you get to take part in the new development. It’s win-win.”
Honest Ed’s celebrated its 65th anniversary last Sunday. While the store will likely survive a few more anniversary parties, some customers were already shopping like it was the store’s last.
“You shouldn’t take this place for granted,” said Sara Lee, taking a picture of herself in front of Honest Ed’s flashy, Vegas-style sign. “A few years from now, everyone will be saying, “Hey, I used to shop at Honest Ed’s!’ like it’s an exclusive club.”